Chances are you have seen it on people in the gym, athletes in the field, or may have it on yourself right now – KT tape. Those colorful strips of tape wrapping around limbs and joints in all sorts of directions. KT Tape (kinesiology tape), along with a number of other elastic sports tape brands, has become a popular tool when it comes to treating injuries and issues in the body. Some individuals swear by it, while others think it’s just a flashy sports marketing gimmick. The question is does it work, and how does it work?
There is some research on the effectiveness of elastic sports tape, and plenty more ongoing. A few of the studies show taping can have some benefits, but it’s not the cure-all marketing and some sports health professionals claim it is.
What is Kinesiology Tape?
Kinesiology Tape is a blend of cotton and nylon. The tape is designed to mimic the skin’s elasticity. You are able to use your entire range of motion. The tape’s also has a medical-grade adhesive that is water-resistant.
When the tape is applied to your body, it recoils slightly, gently lifting your skin. It is believed that this helps to create a tiny space between your skin and the tissues underneath it.
What Is Kinesiology Tape Used For?
So what is KT or elastic sports tape used for? Trainers, therapists, and a host of other professionals will use KT tape for:
- Decreasing pain
- Decreasing swelling and promoting lymphatic drainage
- Promoting posture or corrective proprioception (awareness of the position and movement of your body)
- Supporting underlying muscles and bones
What Does The Research Say on Kinesiology Tape?
And what has the limited research shown on the effectiveness of these uses?
There is some proof that it helps with pain, but more in the gate control theory of pain. This simply means the elastic tape can help distract you from the pain. It gives the nerves something else to focus on instead of the injury. The same way rubbing a knee after bumping into the corner can help dull the pain. It distracts pain signals from the brain and injury site.
After an injury, blood and other fluids build up causing swelling. If there’s too much swelling, the body’s natural means of removing fluid, damaged tissues, and infection can be compressed. KT tape is believed to gently lift the skin from the damaged tissues, which can help to improve blood and lymphatic flow. This allows blood and healing nutrients and waste products to better flow in and out of the site.
Elastic sports taping can help make the individual more aware of a body part or positioning. It can be a tool to improve posture, positioning, or more appropriate movement patterns. If the individual, for example, were to slouch into a poor posture position, the gentle pull of the tape would be a cue to sit up straight.
As far as supporting muscles or bones, KT tape is not effective. Elastic sports tape attaches to the skin, not to bone or muscles. It will not hold a bone in place or support muscles under the skin. Athletic tape, splints, braces, etc. are more effective for this role.
Research is ongoing, but most studies point to the answer: Does KT taping work? – Probably not. Or, at least, not more so than any other tool for pain reduction with an injury such as ice, compression, elevation, and so on. KT tape should be an element in healing along with other proven treatments such as therapeutic exercise and neuromuscular training.